Space Science Day promotes STEM programs through astronaut, workshops

Student+Natalie+Okamura%2C+pre-nursing+major%2C+helps+participant+Vianey+Cardenas%2C+preschool%2C+makes+squishy+polymers+at+the+science+courtyard.+March+9%2C+2019.+Photo+credit%3A+Mona+Itani
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Space Science Day promotes STEM programs through astronaut, workshops

Student Natalie Okamura, pre-nursing major, helps participant Vianey Cardenas, preschool, makes squishy polymers at the science courtyard. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

Student Natalie Okamura, pre-nursing major, helps participant Vianey Cardenas, preschool, makes squishy polymers at the science courtyard. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

Student Natalie Okamura, pre-nursing major, helps participant Vianey Cardenas, preschool, makes squishy polymers at the science courtyard. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

Student Natalie Okamura, pre-nursing major, helps participant Vianey Cardenas, preschool, makes squishy polymers at the science courtyard. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

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Students in between fifth and twelfth grade from throughout Southern California landed on the El Camino College campus to participate in the annual Onizuka Space Science Day on Saturday, March 9.

This event was presented by the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Committee and was sponsored by American Honda Motor Co., Inc, and EC at the Marsee Auditorium.

Held in memory of the seven astronauts that lost their lives aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, the event’s goals were to spark an interest in the science fields to generate an awareness of the various potential career paths possible for youth.

“We’re interested in laying a foundation for interest in STEM,” Erik Wedin, manager of Corporate Relations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc, said. “We want them to get their hands dirty and dream big.”

The doors open

The event at Marsee Auditorium began at 9 a.m. with keynote speaker Dr. Stanley G. Love, a NASA astronaut that has logged over 306 hours in space.

Daniel Vasquez, a fifth-grade student from Chapman Elementary School, said he was excited to see the astronaut and hear about space.

The main focus of Love’s discussion revolved around reasons why mankind has not reached Mars yet, which included various comparisons to and calculations for traveling to the moon and insight to the preparation required for launching people into space. His presentation concluded with a Q&A for curious students.

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Stanly G. Love (left) with 12-year-old Jacob Tennand. Love was the keynote speaker this year for the Onizuka Space Science Day. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mari Inagaki

“I was inspired to be an astronaut since I was very small,” Love said, “I guess I never outgrew my love for space, thinking about the future and making it real and exploring places people haven’t been before.”

Hands-on science

After the lecture, students broke up into various workshops situated around the ITEC and Natural Science Buildings, which included various chemistry and physics demos, a robotics demo and an egg drop contest.

Sofia Halpin, a seventh-grade from Adams Middle School, said she waited a year to participate in the egg drop.

“Last year we missed out,” Halpin said. “But this year we got in line earlier.”

Mayra Munoz, a mother and nursing major at EC, said her kids were in love with the robotics demo.

“I’m very happy these opportunities are around,” Munoz added. “The kids are very excited.”

Keilah Plascencia, a home-schooled 5th grader from Ontario, said her favorite part of the event was dissecting the owl pellets and playing with the robots.

Many of the demos and workshops set up on campus were run by student and faculty volunteers.

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A participant tries his experiment as he wears a serious expression on his face. Onizuka Space Science Day 2019 on the Campus of El Camino College. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mari Inagaki

Natalie Okamura, pre-nursing major, said she understands that it is important to get younger students interested in science.

“It makes me excited to see so many kids here,” Okamura added. “It’s really cool.”

Outside organizations that participated in demos or workshops included the US Air Force, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Space and Missle System Center (SMC) Heritage Center, NASA Johnson Space Center, and Driscoll Strawberry Associates.

Karen Austin, director of the SMC Heritage Center, said they participated in an effort to do what they can to make the community more interested in science.

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Karen Austin, Director of the SMC Heritage Center from Los Angeles Air Force Base Space and Missile Systems Center, hosts her booth at the Science Courtyard during the Onizuka Space Science Day. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

Let out for lunch

The egg drop competition continued after families gathered to eat lunch provided by In-n-Out Burger food trucks around noon.

But a sense of exhaustion and satisfaction could be seen on the faces of parents and students as they slowly cleared out and others began to clean up.

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In-N-Out Burger workers serve lunch during the Onizuka Science Space Day, outside of the ITEC building. March 9, 2019. Photo credit: Mona Itani

Orlando Plascencia, a parent at the event, said he was glad he brought his kids because he likes to expose them to new things.

Plascencia, who is an accountant, added: “I might have chosen something else for a job if there was an event like this when I was growing up.”

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